Part 2 - How to get a job in tech sales: Your hiring manager looks for 5 traits

Ok, so you read my post on how Tech Sales Mentors students get an interview with a company by emailing the hiring manager directly.

What's next? You emailed the hiring manager. They loved that boldness. They want to talk.

Now what the hell do Tech Sales Mentors students talk about in their interviews?!

BDR managers look for 5 traits

One of the great things about breaking into tech sales is you aren’t required to have sales experience. They understand this is an entry-level role, so all they want to see is you have the personality traits required to be successful in the role. So let’s walk through what personality traits they look for:

1. You got that grit

My first week as a BDR only 0.1% of prospects responded to my emails. The benchmark we shoot for is a 10% reply rate. Talk about some adversity. So if I were to tell you that you would spend time researching diligently and reaching out to 100 people, and only 1 person responded to you…Would that be something you’re interested in?

Kevin Flight on Twitter: "What if I told you Martin Landau's Bob Ryan was  my favorite Entourage character, would that be something you'd be  interested in? #RIP…"
Hats off to those who understood the Bob Ryan reference from Entourage.

If you can withstand a lot of rejection until you get a YES, you my friend have grit. Working in sales is a rollercoaster. You might have heard salespeople make a lot of money. You might have heard salespeople travel to conferences in cool locations. While that's all true, the part they don't tell you is..

Most of the time, sales is a grind. You have a quota that you need to hit and you’re looking at it on a weekly basis to see how you track against. Sometimes you’ll be ahead of the curve, sometimes not so much. When you are way behind on your quota, being able to come back and hit your quota is grit.

So look inward to your life. Did you struggle through ACT/SAT exam prep to get in the top 10% of scores? Did you work your way through college to pay off your tuition? Has life sucker punched you in face and you wiped yourself off and got right back up? Then you got that grit.

One thing to note here is grit isn't only dealing with the struggle, but it's ultimately about succeeding. If you tell a hiring manager how much you've failed in life, without mentioning how you overcame that failure and succeeded, well then you sound like a failure. Who wants to hire someone who is going to fail?

Hiring managers respect people who have dealt with failure. But they hire people who have demonstrated top-tier performance in their life.

2. You are coachable

Remember how I said this is an entry-level role and you’re not expected to have any previous sales experience? Well, that means you really don’t know a damn thing about how to do the job. So here’s how you get good at the job.

Outside of giving it your all…you’ll have to always be asking for feedback, be open to being critiqued without getting defensive, and ultimately implementing that feedback.

Here are some of the ways you’re going to get feedback.

  • Your BDR manager is going to listen to your call recordings with prospects (potential customers).
  • More experienced BDR’s are going to see your processes & systems to hit your quota.
  • AE’s are going to always see what companies you’re reaching out to and who you are reaching out to at those companies.

The great thing about feedback in a startup environment is no one is going to rip you apart for making a mistake (this ain’t investment banking😅). In fact, as someone in an entry-level sales role, you want to have an attitude that screams, “teach me your ways so I can be better”.

I knew I had to be better than a 0.1% reply rate. So I strategized with my manager and we identified areas where I was going wrong. I looked at the emails my best-performing colleagues were sending and copied their templates. I spent extra time perfecting emails that were hyper personalized to the prospect I was emailing.

And from taking an attitude of wanting to be better, over time I got my reply rate to 10%. And in case you don't realize why that's important...

Higher reply rate -> more conversations with prospects -> better chance to hit your quota

So do you lean on an older sibling or mentor for how you can be better at life and act on their advice? Are you always asking a coach or teacher for where you went wrong and you fixed that mistake? Have you gotten feedback you disagreed with and responded with calm logic, not aggressive emotion?

3. You have ownership and accountability

I remember one of my first few weeks as a BDR, I mentioned to my manager, Emerald Maravilla (she’s hiring by the way!), that I had all these goals I was focused on. I wanted to shadow Account Executives because I wanted to eventually do that role. I wanted to learn more about her role because management also interested me. I wanted to meet 1:1 and get to know people on the Engineering team.

Emerald taught me a valuable lesson that day. She said all of that was great, but as a salesperson you have one goal:

(or crush 😎) your quota.

Now she wasn’t saying I shouldn’t do those other things. But she was saying since I was new to sales, I needed to focus. Especially since I started my tenure with a 0.1% reply rate. And boy was she right. At the beginning of each quarter, you’re given a number you need to hit (ex: book this many meetings with prospects).

An outstanding BDR will understand it’s on their shoulders to hit that quota. No one else’s. That's ownership and accountability.

Here are some ways I’ve seen BDR’s take accountability and ownership over their quota:

  • If not enough prospects are responding to them, they’ll analyze why that's the case and come up with a strategy to get more prospects to respond.
  • If their territory doesn’t have enough prospects to reach out to, they will talk to their BDR manager to try to get more leads.
  • If their prospect is in Europe and they’re in the US, they will stay up late or get up early to talk during the prospect’s business hours.

So was it on you to complete a project while the rest of your team dozed off? Have you ever had to implement a budget in your life because you were paying your own bills? Did you set a goal, struggle to achieve it, but ultimately did? Then you got ownership & accountability.

4. You listen, listen, listen before you speak

Whenever a sales call was going poorly, I’d have this impulse to talk more. Acting on that impulse was the wrong choice every time. People think being a good salesperson means you do all the talking. Salespeople dream up magical stories in their head and convince people that’s the way. It’s probably the most misunderstood part of sales. The truth is, sales starts with listening.

You have to listen to how your prospect explains their business. You have to listen to how your prospect talks about their business’ goals of the year. You have to listen to how your prospect talks about the problems getting in the way of achieving their goals. All this listening stems from asking questions. You have to actively listen to what a prospect says so then you can ask an informed question that helps you go a level deeper into their answer.

Once you understand your prospect’s point of view, only then do you get into the pitching. Now you can incorporate what they said into your pitch and share how your solution solves the SPECIFIC problem they are facing. That’s much better than starting by pitching and saying generic things that might not apply to what the prospect is specifically facing.

So when you’re talking to someone you just met, do you lean into asking them questions to learn more about them? Have you ever tried to understand what someone wants before asking something from them? Do you find yourself referencing what someone said earlier in conversations? That's active listening.

5. You want to be in sales

You know how I said you don’t need sales experience to be a BDR? That leads to employers wondering if you actually want to be in sales since this would be your first role in sales. Thinking from the employer perspective, a BDR is an investment.

The employer isn’t hiring you because of your potential as a BDR. The employer is hiring you because your potential to become an AE or another critical role to generating revenue. So you have to demonstrate that you not only want to be a BDR, but that you want to pursue sales as a career path.

Now sometimes it can be hard to know if you want to pursue a certain kind of career. Especially if you’ve never done the role before. So here’s some indicators that you’ll like & be good at sales:

  1. You can withstand rejection until you achieve your goal.
  2. You are open to having your work critiqued and implementing that feedback.
  3. You love having a very clear, numerical goal that you measured against. And being 100% accountable for if that goal is achieved or not.
  4. As all you Stoics out there know, Epictetus said, "we have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak."

Do you feel the deja vu? All the traits I mentioned earlier in this post are the indicators that you will like & be good at sales.

And that’s a wrap!

Now we know what BDR manager’s look for in an interview. But how do you communicate you have these traits in an effective, persuasive way?

BDR managers interview a lot of people. A lot of what they hear is not interesting or memorable. No specifics, no learnings & no energy. Now think of the best video you watched today on TikTok, Youtube, or Netflix.

Chances are they told you a story that kept you in engaged and entertained in a world full of noise. Read this post to understand how Tech Sales Mentors students tell stories that makes the hiring manager feel like they're having an enjoyable conversation, not a boring interview!

Need help conveying these traits in your interview? Learn more about how we help Tech Sales Mentors candidates do just that by claiming your free consultation here!